Prospective hemp farmers in Utah will have to wait out the government shutdown before they’re able to legally grow the crop.
Utah started allowing hemp cultivation under a state Department of Agriculture and Food program in November in accordance with research-focused provisions of the prior federal Farm Bill that was passed in 2014. But before farmers can take advantage of the program, they must submit regulatory plans to the agency—and pass an FBI background check.
The problem? FBI personnel responsible for conducting the background checks are furloughed due to the shutdown.
“It could keep someone from getting their business underway,” Jack Wilbur, spokesperson for the Utah agriculture department, told KUTV.
Presumably, this issue would also affect cultivation applicants in other states such as Minnesota and Pennsylvania that have hemp pilot programs with federal background check requirements, as well as licensing processes for broader marijuana legalization or medical cannabis laws that involve the FBI record checks.
If the shutdown isn’t resolved for a significant period of time, the situation could become even more problematic with respect to the new 2018 Farm Bill that federally legalized hemp. One reason why is that under the legislation, individuals with felony drug convictions are barred from participating in the industry for 10 years after the offense.
While federal hemp legalization officially took effect on Tuesday, it’s expected to take some time before farmers can legally cultivate the crop because states must first submit their program plans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval.
Photo courtesy of Brendan Cleak.